design, insights

NHC Hitchin campus business student work experience project

Posted 22-09-22
3 minute read

Earlier this summer we were fortunate enough to be approached by North Herts College to get involved with a work experience project for 2nd-year students studying Business.

Working with the community has long been something we are passionate about at Displayplan.  So, alongside our yearly community charity work for Mind Hertfordshire & Headway Hertfordshire we knew we wanted to do more to engage with people beyond work and the business world. So, when presented with the opportunity to provide a team-based work experience for college students and connect with inspiring young minds, we jumped at it.

While evolving technologies and platforms that create digital encounters continue to reshape the way we connect with each other, nothing beats face-to-face connection. In our day-to-day work we look to create engaging & meaningful connections between shoppers and retail, so what better way to engage with our own local community than by meeting them, talking to them, and working with them on a fun project?

After talking to the students about what we do at Displayplan, who our clients are and more generally about retail experiences with a big picture view, the students went on to discuss their own retail experiences; what they see, what they enjoy and how they shop.

We then put our challenge forward.

Using the work activities we had laid out, and the key service areas of our business: Insight & Strategy, Design & Development, Digital Innovation, Global Supply, Programme Management and Sustainability. We asked them to come up with a retail experience that they personally would find appealing, applying these workstreams to their choice of client.

Team 1 had a great idea to create a digital display in ASDA with a system of icons and templates that enabled shoppers to personalise apparel. Following the purchase of the design through the display, it would then be printed in-store, allowing shoppers to walk out that same visit with a completely custom piece. What we loved about this was the inherent benefit of increased footfall and drawing younger shoppers into stores, a consideration that is often put forward by our supermarket clients.

Team 2 was equally notable, with the concept of a Sainsbury’s TU digital display that allowed shoppers to review an AR image of themselves wearing their chosen outfit in large format in-store, and share on social media before purchase. Introducing these screens would give Sainsbury’s a different platform both in-store, online, and again would encourage a younger audience in-store.

Although this was for many of the students, their first experience of presenting to a senior management team from any industry, we were impressed by the student’s teamwork, creative thinking, interpersonal & presentation skills. Particularly remarkable was the students resolve in working through nerves, and their ability to think fast, with no time to prepare, when being asked questions by different functional managers.

The project was, to us, a complete triumph. There are many steps along the shopper journey for engagement and interaction that are sometimes subtle, sometimes bold. We were able to learn from a group of young adults who are the shoppers of the future, helping us stay fresh and tuned into real shopper insights.  Lastly,  it was particularly pleasing to hear students say they were unlikely to shop and walk through a retail store without noticing those differences in the future.

Getting students to think in a different way about their surroundings and teaching them about presenting conceptual, analytical and creative thinking – all skills required in the workplace no matter where their career is headed – was as rewarding as it promised to be.

And the positivity didn’t end there.

Working with North Herts College provided Displayplan with a way not just to interact with the community, but in a way that brought our team together in a different light.  Although we, of course, socialise outside of work, and through other community work, this was unique as it gave us the means to sit within our roles, but without the pressure of a work project to deliver.